You can read Grace Part 1 here: https://bethanykays.com/2017/02/01/grace/
After Grace passed away I continued to visit all of the others in the nursing home I had met while visiting Grace. I would meet a new person every time I visited. One day I was getting someone a soda and I bumped into Catherine. The day I visited Catherine I met Elsa. The day I visited Elsa I met Rosa. The day I visited Rosa I met Mrs Hammond. When I introduced myself to Mrs Hammond she said, ” I remember a Bethany that lived across the lake from me. She had a twin and I used to watch them playing on the waters edge.” I AM THAT BETHANY I told her! It is a very small world. The more people I met the more time I spent in the nursing home. I remember every single person I ever met there, their names, their stories, their lives. They are gone now but they will never be forgotten.
At that time my daughter was still coming once a week to visit the nursing home with me. The faces of everyone lit up the moment they saw her. She would wear dresses and dress up costumes and tiaras. She would make them all beaded necklaces and bracelets and lovingly put them around their necks. She would bring dolls and barbies with her and if anyone showed an interest she immediately gave her doll away. I would walk around the nursing home and see women holding my daugther’s donated dolls and smile at my daughter’s love. I didn’t really have a position or a title in the nursing home. I was just always there. Since my grandparents were there and I was a person the staff recognized, no one questioned my continued visits…Until I started witnessing abuse. I started witnessing neglect. Then things changed.
I filed my first complaint with an outside source when I was there to visit Catherine one day. I stood outside the door while the CNA was abusive. Catherine’s wheelchair was caught on the side of the bed by no fault of her own and the CNA was ramming Catherine, in the chair, against the bed, yelling at her because it was stuck. Catherine was being flung about like a rag doll. I flew in that room! Immediately said “STOP!” And the CNA started making excuses to which I repeated “STOP” again. And she left. Catherine was okay. I visited Catherine every day after that for a year. The CNA called me a “bitch” everytime I passed by her. I never said a word.
One of the men I visited was left naked in his wheelchair. I went into his room and he was shaking all over freezing. They had showered him, not dressed him, taken him to his room, and forgotten about him. He had ALS and could not speak. I think this was the first rage I had ever had. I YELLED at the staff who immediately ran in and dressed him. But I was throwing up red flags and now the staff was keeping an eye on me. I was becoming a monitor of sorts and the staff did not like that. I still think of him. I feel they tried to take away his dignity. I would never let that happen. There were many, like him that I found naked. Equal rages ensued.
One day I went in and every call light was on. I started going into each room and answering the call lights. There were at least 20 lights on. The call lights were outside of each room on the ceiling. Someone needed to use the bathroom. Someone couldn’t reach their water because it was put just out of reach. Someone had fallen and was on the floor. Someone never got lunch. As I was going into each of the rooms I caught out of the corner of my eye the staff! They were all sitting in a patient’s room on an empty bed and using the patent’s tv to watch soap operas. Appalled. I was completely appalled. I filed my second complaint. When the nursing home was investigated they were warned ahead of time. I went in that day. The CNAs were in patient’s rooms painting their fingernails!!!! Brushing their hair!!!! It was the biggest web of deceit and injustice I had seen against these elderly. And the lie worked.
The abuse continued. I was just noticing signs of my muscle disease at that time. Helping them was becoming harder. Helping someone use the bathroom, helping her stand, lowering her down, was really starting to hurt me. But I didn’t stop.
One day my daughter and I went to the nursing home and I brought my camera. I took pictures of untended wounds, a woman bleeding from the face in the dining hall, a woman’s face smothered under a pillow, and so much more. Until I was caught! I planned to give the pictures to the local newspaper, the Elderly advocates, anything to protect these forgotten souls! The manager of the facility tried to grab my camera. She chased me around, said she was calling the police, and I ran out of there with a thousand pounds of adrenaline pumping through my veins with my daughter in my arms. We had no idea what we would see that day and the turn of events that would happen. My daughter still remembers it. Turns out I didn’t have to show the pictures to anyone! The knowledge that I HAD them changed everything. I went in the next day and no call lights were on. Everyone was being properly clothed and fed. My name was announced over the loud speaker in some sort of code after that, every time I passed the receptionist.
But as fate would have it, I saw the receptionist one day as I was visiting my mother. She was my mother’s next door neighbor!
All of a sudden, this person, me, who had been coming virtually unnoticed for years to this nursing home was now noticed. I was told I could nolonger enter the patients rooms. I had a right to be in the hallway and in the building but my rights ended there. But I had probably 30 people counting on me every week. Their families knew me and trusted I would be there.
None of this was by accident. I was led there. I was guided there every single day. I felt God’s hand on mine sending me into each room that I needed to be in. Even on days I was tired and wanted to just rest I was led directly by God to GET UP and go to that nursing home. If God was leading me, then how could one woman stop me! One manager of the nursing home! So I was led down my next path.
I called Hospice to see if I could become a volunteer. I went through the training hours and was officially a hospice volunteer a few weeks later. I specifically requested THE nursing home. The one I had already spent so many years in AND I knew the patients that I personally thought needed hospice care ALREADY!!! It was truly a blessing of huge mangitudes. Whenever the manager stopped me, I just held up my name tag that said “hospice volunteer” and said no words. One woman cannot stop God’s work. And she didn’t.
I later went through the chaplain program with hospice and became a volunteer chaplain. It was truly an honor. Due to patent confidentiality I cannot mention the names of those I saw once I became a chaplain, but their names will always be in my heart. I spent over 8 years in that nursing home. I stayed there volunteering until everyone I had visited years before had passed away. Then I requested to go into different nursing home. My time there was done. Whenever we drive past that nursing home I get a lump in my throat. Tears well up. Tears well up now just writing this. The people who I visited felt I was a blessing to them. It was the opposite. They blessed me beyond measure. It was an honor to be in their lives and I owe that all to God.